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He spoke (as to / to) the issue of racism within the police force in the United States.

The two sentences above seem to carry the same meaning to me. What is the difference in meaning between the two? Does using "to" instead of "as to" signify the purpose of the speech was to address the issue, whereas "as to" merely means about? Or are the two constructions same in meaning?

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  • You need to link the previous question. I did it for you as a Christmas gift. Also, you need to explain about what made you think to can replace as to in the previous question. Please edit your question to include the reason. – user24743 Dec 22 '15 at 16:21
  • Thank you for linking the previous question. I will be sure to link the question next time. The reason I thought "to" could replace "as to" is because of the answer to my previous question. The answer stated that "as to" sounded too "highfalutin" and "to" would suffice in the sentence I posted as an example. – ed86 Dec 22 '15 at 16:30
  • Then, you should clarify the issue with the answerer. Just a heads-up, you received one close-vote from another member. I don't think your question is on-topic,. You need to elaborate more in the question to make it on-topic. – user24743 Dec 22 '15 at 16:33
  • I have made the edits. I hope that helps. – ed86 Dec 22 '15 at 16:41
  • While, in the previous question, there may be nothing in the answer that can possibly make me think to can replace as to, isn't the question valid on it's own? I am asking for the difference in meaning between two sentences which appear to carry the same meaning. – ed86 Dec 22 '15 at 16:51
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In general about is preferable. The phrase speak to has the connotation of addressing a particular narrow point. It may be used, to co-opt your example, in the context of a meeting where a particular question concerning racism in U.S. police forces comes up. The meeting participant for whom that is an area of responsibility may say, "I can speak to that."

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"He spoke to the issue of racism within police forces in the United States," is correct usage. I italicized "spoke to the issue of" because it is the whole phrase that replaces "about." Usually, "to" cannot replace "about" in normal, everyday speech or writing.

As to your second question, one does not generally speak "as to" something, but uses it as I have in this sentence.

I changed "the police force" to "police forces," because almost every city in the United States has its own, separate police department (there are more than twelve thousand of them).

[The following is off-topic but needs to be addressed, in my opinion.]

Racism is a problem in some departments and not in others. As a former dispatcher for a small university-town police department and later the Criminal Justice Planning Director for four counties in northwestern California, I can assure you that virtually every police department in the U. S. is actively working to reduce racism in their ranks, especially in response to the horrible abuses we all have seen on television. Please remember that most police officers are not racist and work hard to maintain a fair and impartial attitude towards all citizens. It is only a relatively small percentage of officers and departments that have tarnished the good work of everyone in law enforcement.

If you have the opportunity, I encourage you to seek a department where you can "ride along" with an officer during his or her shift to get a better idea of what these highly trained men and women deal with on an everyday basis. You might be amazed at the abuse they not only tolerate and ignore but respond to with courtesy and respect, abuses that would make an ordinary civilian so angry as to act out in a way that would not be appropriate. Once you have witnessed the extraordinary self-control and professionalism of most police officers, you will be less likely to think in global terms of "the police force" in the United States. Thank you for your question and for raising the issue.

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